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SOCI 3220 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Sociocultural Evolution, Frankfurt School, Working Class Culture

Course Code
SOCI 3220
Rabita Hadj- Moussa
Study Guide

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1) What is the relation between sociology and anthropology as scientific disci-
plines and the distinction between nature and culture?
- sociology studies society and anthropology focuses on culture
-sociologists focus primarily on industrial societies while anthropology tends to focus on
remote or ‘barbaric’ societies
-sociologists both study culture with a particular interest in the social consequences of
material goods, group structure, and belief systems as well as how people communicate
with one another
- the chief concern of anthropologists is to understand culture, a people’s total way of
life; culture includes a group’s (1) artifacts, such as its tools, art, and weapons; (2) struc-
ture, the patterns that determine how its members interact with one another (such as po-
sitions of leadership); (3) ideas and values, the ways the group’s beliefs affect its mem-
bers’ lives; and (4) forms of communication, especially language
- like anthropologists, sociologists also study culture; they, too, do research on group
structure and belief systems, as well as on how people communicate with one another
-unlike anthropologists, sociologists focus primarily on industrialized societies
-early anthropologists sought theoretical insight from the perceived tensions between
culture, as a social entity, and nature, as a bio-physical entity
-for many, culture is considered superior to nature
-in social science it is about what shapes us both as individuals and as members of so-
-Inherited genetic predisposition ("nature") or what we learn as we grow up ("nurture")
that predominantly shapes us and our differences as individuals?
-Similarly, anthropologists ask how much of our behavior as a group is pre-determined
by geography, culture, or history
-Studies increasingly indicate what most of us know from common sense: these differ-
ences between us as individuals and those between groups of people can be explained
by no single factor alone, but by the complex interaction between them
-cultural is always something other than nature,
-culture always implies a transformation and denial of natural
-the anthropological concept of "culture" is a reaction against Western discourses on
opposition “culture" and “nature", according to which some human beings lived in a
"state of nature"

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2) Why was the argument of progress crucial not only in the above distinction but
also the distinction between different societies?
-the reason and progress of the Enlightenment related to the classical conception of
culture as “the best that has been thought and said”
-influenced by theory of evolution; people knowing and mastering their environments
-societies that are the most advance (technology, capitalism, democracy) are consid-
ered more “evolved” than “tribal societies”
2) What are (is) the theories (theory) of culture that were (was) used in the film the
Wild Child?
-aesthetic/elitist definition of culture; French culture as the standard that Victor should
be held to
-doctors approached Victor in an empirical manner because science was defining cul-
ture at the time; descriptive/anthropological
-cultures situated between savage and civilized; “you are not completely civilized, but
you are not completely animal”
2) What are the conceptions of culture that were identified by Edles? Are they
similar to the ones identifies by Thompson?
-Aesthetic/Humanistic: humanistic refinement and elite activities like ballet, classical mu-
sic and museums
- the best that has been thought and said
-refers to individual qualities and culture is a collective phenomenon and by definition
-creates a high/low culture dichotomy
-Ethnographic/Anthropologic: includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and
“any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”;
-emphasizes the fact that culture is not out of reach for the everyday person (high cul-
ture) but is a part of our everyday experience
-the aesthetic definition fails to link “society” with “culture” to a satisfactory degree - but
one of the greatest problems with the ethnographic definition is that it may link them too
much leading to a complete fusion of the social and cultural realms
-Symbolic: systems or patterns of shared symbols and meaning
-aesthetic limits culture to only the arts while the symbolic includes all symbolic
-phenomena like language, religion and fashion

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-emphasizes the fact that all culture is shared
-can lead to the implication that culture is only symbolic
Structural Conception of Culture
-a modification of the symbolic conception of culture that takes into account socially
structured contexts and processes
-5 characteristics of symbolic forms in the structural conception:
1)intentional: “symbolic forms are expressions of a subject and for a subject (or sub-
jects)”; symbolic forms are used to express what you are meaning to say or intending to
do and there is a message for another subject to perceive
2)conventional: “the production, construction or employment of symbolic forms, as well
as the interpretation of symbolic forms by the subjects who receive them, are processes
that typically involve the application of rules, codes or conventions of various kinds”; the
ways in which we interpret symbolic forms is based on the rules and norms that govern
us and the context we are situated in
3)structural: “symbolic forms are constructions which display an articulated structure”;
symbolic forms display an articulated structure in that they stand in fixed and decided re-
lationships to one another
4)referential: “symbolic forms are constructions which typically represent something, re-
fer to something, say something about something”; symbolic forms typically represent
something; aspects of symbolic forms are referred to differently
5)contextual: “symbolic forms are always embedded in specific social-historical contexts
and processes within which, and by means of which, they are produced, transmitted and
received”; the way symbolic forms are constructed and broadcasted received and they
ways that people receive them depends on where they come from and where they are
being received
1) What is the difference between culture and civilization
- in the French tradition, Civilization is conceived of as a complex and many sided whole
that includes political, economic, religious moral and social facts
- it sums up all the ways in which Western society in the last 200 or 300 years believes
itself superior to other societies present and past
- to the Germans, civilization was something that was very external and pragmatic; it
didn’t really translate to their national values
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